I was a guest on the fantastic podcast, In the Context of Empire, where I spoke with co-host Matt McKenna about lots of things, but mainly about how imperialist propaganda works.
The old saying goes that Science ain’t an exact science, and nowhere is that more true than with the Scientific Racism of the 19th century. From its predecessors in the 18th century, we get into the unholy trinity of Pearson, Galton, and Fisher. We talk about craniometry, phrenology, IQ testing, “race development” (now called International Relations), and racism in all your favorite fields, from criminology to anthropology, to political science and economics, to sociology and statistical science itself. We talk about the history, so you can ponder the question: has science moved past all this racist baggage?
Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species was read by Lord Elgin before he burned down the palace in Beijing and by Marx, who was so excited he asked Darwin if he could dedicate a volume of Capital to him (Darwin politely declined, not wanting to offend religious sentiment). We talk Darwin and the debates he spawned, physics, Freud, and about the scientific advances and missteps of the late 19th century. Part 1 of a series on Science, Scientific Racism, and Racism in the 19th century.
Racism, imperialism, repression of sexuality, hypocrisy, pugilism, world fairs, parades, animals on display, worship of a royal family… we look at the Victorian era and the Queen herself. Good thing we’ve come so far since those days… right?
On March 1, I was on a panel hosted by the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, the Canadian Peace Congress, World Beyond War, the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, and Just Peace Associates. The topic was “the Arrest of Meng Wanzhou and the New Cold War on China”. Other panelists were Radhika Desai, William Ging Wee Dere, and John Ross – all of whom covered different aspects of the situation. I focused my remarks on Canada’s own record of genocide and racism, summarizing some of what we’ve been talking about in recent Civilizations episodes. The whole panel is out there on youtube – this audio is just my talk, 17 minutes long.
By pure coincidence, we are publishing this episode on the day the world contrasted the the Alaska Summit – a US-China meeting in March 2021, in which China told the US to stop posturing, to the humiliations of the Boxer Protocol of 1901. In this episode, we talk about the terrible famines of 1876 and 1896 in China and India that killed tens of millions of people, the context of the Boxer Uprising of lightly armed but tenacious anti-imperialists, and the further humiliations inflicted on China by the imperialists at the nadir of China’s century of humiliation.
By the 1860s it was Korea’s turn to face the dilemma of how to deal with the imperialists. Qing China and Meiji Japan had a lot to say about what they thought Korea should do. We talk about the attempts to reform, Donghak Uprising in Korea, and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5.
I’m joined by Nora Barrows-Friedman and Asa Winstanley, both of the Electronic Intifada podcast. We’re piecing together the story of how lifelong anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn of the UK Labour Party was taken down by a smear campaign, which began by targeting those around him. Having taken him down, the smear campaign continued and managed to force AOC in the US to apologize for talking to Corbyn on the phone. The campaign has moved to Canada, where NDP MP Niki Ashton has been dragged by media and by her own party for daring to host an event with a fellow left-wing politician from the UK. We analyze the nature of the attack, look at cases including Corbyn, AOC, Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill, and now Niki Ashton, and speculate about what the best strategy might be for self-defense for those who believe in solidarity with Palestinians.
India had Plassey in 1757, China had Opium War 1 in 1839, and Japan had Commodore Perry’s visit in 1853. After centuries of keeping the imperialists at bay, Japan found them knocking down the gates. And in a series of events studied by everyone in Asia but never imitated, Japan went from having a brief colonial encounter to joining the imperialists within a few decades. We don’t know if anyone can tell you why it happened, but we can tell you what happened, on this episode of Civilizations.
I bring Carl Zha on for another Kung Fu Yoga episode, this time about Canada. We discuss the unanimous declaration by the Canadian parliament (followed by the Netherlands parliament days later) in February 2021 that a genocide is taking place in Xinjiang. What’s really behind this declaration, and how can Canadian history, and Chinese history, help us think about the issue? We reference relevant episodes from the Civilizations Series and from Carl Zha’s Silk & Steel podcast.